We’re going to the Store, to the Store, to the Store (or not)

Today, Apple announced that they’re making an App Store for the Mac, similar to the App Store for the iPhone/iPad. This raises a number of questions and opportunities, not all of them pleasant.

I’m going to assume that you are familiar with the developers’ stories about the App Store, both good and bad. How much will a Mac App Store repeat these stories, and how much will change?

The iPhone App Store requires a rigorous analysis process of a program before it is released, both of the code and the content. Will the Mac App Store ban the use of private APIs? Will Mac apps be subject to the same opaque ‘community standards’ moral code? Will application be rejected on the basis that they ‘duplicate Apple application functionality’?

Assume that your application passes the requirements and is accepted by the store. Now you have to deal with pricing and payment. You’ll have to set up the byzantine tax and payment systems that Apple requires, and that iPhone developers complain about. You be guaranteed to be paying more taxes, since Apple collects and remits sales tax in every region that has them.

Hand over all your marketing and analysis to Apple. And you’d better hope it’s good. You won’t be able to track unique visitors, drive-bys, and demo downloads any more. In fact, you won’t have demo versions at all, if they follow the practices of the iPhone App Store.

Buyer beware is great for 99ยข apps, even $9.99 apps. But how do you convince someone to buy a $40 app, sight unseen?

How do you handle bad reviews? even a single anonymous bad review in the App Store could be fatal for a more expensive app.

Copy-protection. We all have schemes and serial numbers, some home-grown, some outsourced. They’re all crack-able, with different degrees of difficulty. Now think about Apple single-sourcing the copy protection. For one thing, it will be easier to crack on a Mac than on an iOS device, since the cracker has direct access to the binaries and a number of tools to help him. More frightening is the idea that if the Mac App Store protection is cracked, every application in the store is now free to download.

And what about upgrade revenue? That doesn’t exist in the current app store, and there are no signs of it coming. You sell one version, and then it’s free upgrades for life.

These are just a few of the issues I’ve come up with off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more, and I’m sure we’re all going to have to think seriously about them before committing to the Mac App Store.